Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Philip Alston statement on UN responsibility for cholera in Haiti

In a statement in front of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, called on the UN to revisit the flawed legal advice it received in 2013 from its Office of Legal Affairs on how to deal with incoming claims of legal responsibility for the cholera outbreak. Alston also calls on UN Member States to back up their words of sympathy for Haiti’s cholera victims by generously donating to a recently-established Trust Fund purposed for materially assisting Haitians and for intensifying efforts to eliminate the disease. His statement even includes a shout out to BAI and IJDH for keeping up the fight for cholera justice!

An excerpt from the statement is posted below. Click HERE for the full statement.

Cliquez ICI pour la version française (vidéo).

Statement by Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights: UN responsibility for the introduction of cholera into Haiti

Philip Alston, United Nations General Assembly

October 25, 2016


Mr President, distinguished delegates,


Exactly six years ago, United Nations peacekeepers brought cholera to Haiti for the first time in that country’s history. Soon, 10,000 people will have died as a result, and 800,000 will have been infected. Eight per cent of Haiti’s total population has thus been affected.


1. The abdication of responsibility

For most of those six years, despite valiant and dogged efforts by civil society groups such as the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the UN opted to abdicate its responsibility. It:

• refused to accept factual responsibility for the introduction of the epidemic;

• contested the scientific evidence on the basis of a self-evidently flawed and unjustified assessment;

• insisted that no legal claim for negligence could be brought against it, despite the clear provisions of the relevant treaty and its agreement with Haiti;

• refused to countenance the payment of any form of compensation even to the relatives of those who had died;

• issued no apology; and

• did not do enough to promote and strengthen efforts to achieve eradication.

2. The negative consequences

This approach was a disaster because it:

• flouted the applicable international law;

• enshrined a double standard which exempts the UN itself from having to respect human rights;

• reinforced the perception that UN peacekeeping operations can trample with impunity on the rights of those being protected;

• undermined the credibility of the Organization;

• jeopardized the UN’s immunity by making it synonymous with impunity, and thus rendering it indefensible; and

• left the UN vulnerable to eventual claims for damages and compensation in this and subsequent cases, because the legally required settlement will never have been provided.



Click HERE for the original statement.

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